Connecting With God

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Communication Barriers With God

Walking with God is a sink-or-swim experience

  • Jesus asks for full submission, which means that we have to faithfully give up everything for Him (Luke 9:24)
    • This means different things for different people at different times, and the Bible left it vague on purpose for that reason
    • The only certainty is that you will be in constant battle between your own body’s impulses and the Holy Spirit’s commands (Romans 7:22-25)
  • God gave Scripture to us to allow even the dumbest people in society to become wise (1 Corinthians 1:27)
  • Often God has to take us through an emotional “wilderness” to get us to a place of full submission
    • Full submission doesn’t look like having no sin, it just means that someone’s willing to do literally anything that God wants them to do
    • There are some clear signs that someone is in that wilderness:
      • Defining the future based on past and current events
      • Failing to take appropriate personal responsibility
      • Desiring an easier or more enjoyable life
      • Excessive complaining or negativity
      • Compulsions for instant gratification
      • External locus of control
      • Self-pity or self-loathing
      • Strong sense of worthlessness
      • Enviousness and jealousy
      • Unwilling to try an alternative method
      • Anything else that doesn’t follow alongside the rules of success
    • There are some clear signs of someone who has surrendered wholly to Christ:
      • Genuine worship and devotion to God, irrespective of public or private circumstances
      • Heartfelt expression of faith
      • Willingness to part with any physical possessions
      • Stronger focus on God’s desires than on personal goals or others’ desires

We need to pray earnestly and wholly to God

  • Prayer is probably the most neglected spiritual discipline
    • Set aside time daily to pray to Him
  • Prayer isn’t just asking God for things, it’s the primary way a Christian communicates with God
    • Prayer is done in the heart, not through speaking, though speaking can make it more real
      • God doesn’t “need” you to pray, but He asks it to strengthen our faith
    • Prayer is talking to God, and it’s done best when in a certain way (Matthew 6:9-13)
      • Use one of God’s names, and remember He’s your heavenly father
      • Ask for His will to be done on earth in the same way He has it in heaven
      • Ask for Him to provide the physical needs for the day
      • Ask for forgiveness of any sins in the same way that you’ve forgiven others’ sins against you
      • Ask for protection and safety from evil and destruction
    • If you have the right attitude and are praying with His desires in mind, your prayers are guaranteed to be answered (Mark 11:24)
      • Don’t hold back, the bolder and more specific your prayers are the clearer God will answer it or correct you on it
      • God doesn’t give us things we don’t ask for, so ask persistently and intentionally (Luke 18:1-8)
    • Prayer shouldn’t just be in the form of a routine behavior, though (Matthew 6:7)
      • As you go throughout life, praying is a constant communication with God, and works for literally everything
        • Opportunities and risks that arise
          • Pray that God’s will is done, since the seemingly greatest opportunity might not be best to take
          • Pray for wisdom in approaching decisions
        • Personal feelings, desires and thoughts
          • Pray that all anxiety be removed and give all concerns to Him
          • Pray for every problem to be under His will and submit them to Him
          • Pray for peace from the Holy Spirit
          • Pray to have a more Christ-like heart and a stronger passion for the people He wants you to have passion for
        • Thoughts, ideas and feelings of others
          • Pray that God works on their hearts and minds
          • Pray for their strength and God’s guidance in their lives
        • Relationships and social dynamics with others
          • Pray that God rightly resolve the problems and bring His glory through it
          • Pray for them to have a hunger for studying Scripture and following God
        • Churches and people groups you’re involved in
          • Pray for unity and diversity in the Body of Christ
          • Pray for leaders to stay strong and maintain their calling without any moral compromise
          • Pray for effective and Christ-minded leaders to step forward in the group’s dynamic
          • Pray for discipleship culture to take hold of the group, especially with younger people
          • Pray for meaningful relationships to become normal and anonymity to become unusual
        • The Church at large
          • Pray that members give more joyfully, faithfully, consistently and boldly
          • Pray that members would share the Gospel in their own individual lives
          • Pray for God’s Word to be biblically careful and spiritually driven
          • Pray for prayer warriors to step up and spiritually empower the Body of Christ
          • Pray for preparedness for persecution
          • Pray that the hope of political change is less important than spiritual change
          • Pray for members to take their careers to the rest of the world to deliver the Gospel
      • There’s nothing in the Bible that says you need to pray before food, but it’s not bad to practice for the sake of gratitude
  • Most spiritual problems come from not spending time communicating with God
    • It is impossible to become spiritually complacent when always praying several times a day
    • We get a lot of free time to pray:
      • Anytime we are in the bathroom
      • When commuting
      • Doing routine or mindless work
      • Spending time in personal hobbies, exercising or leisure
  • Fasting can accompany prayer to intensify it (Mark 9:29, Acts 14:23)
    • Fasting is vital to grow in Christ, but only for the right reasons (Matthew 6:16-18)
    • Many Christians don’t fast, and it’s to their own disadvantage

You can’t have a relationship with God if you don’t listen to God

  • The main way God speaks to His people is through His Bible
    • This isn’t saying that other revelations and visions, but they will always echo what the Bible has already said
      • God’s wisdom will always be pure, peaceable, gentle, fruitful, unbiased and genuine (James 3:17)
      • God’s Word will never come back without an impact, even if everything else does (Isaiah 55:11)
  • Spend time daily in His Word
    • Pray for His wisdom and sight as you read His word
    • Set aside daily time intentionally to read, digest, research and analyze the Bible
      • Some people think that God’s inspiration doesn’t require diligent Bible study, but that’s wrong (Acts 17:11)
      • If you even vaguely understand who God is, you’ll understand that you need to use philosophical thinking to understand Him
      • You must preach the Gospel to yourself daily to grow in your relationship with Him
  • Keep a few general rules in mind when interpreting the Bible
    • God’s revelation in the Scriptures is progressive, and both Old and New Testaments are essential parts of this revelation and form a unit
    • Assume that the Bible is authoritative
      • The Bible interprets itself; Scripture best explains Scripture
    • Only faith and the Holy Spirit let us understand and properly comprehend Scripture
      • Personal experience should be interpreted in the light of Scripture and not the other way around
    • The Bible was written to change our lives, not increase our knowledge
    • Every Christian has the right and responsibility to personally investigate and interpret the Word of God
    • Every promise God gives in the Bible is available to believers through the Holy Spirit for all generations
    • There is a specific order of importance in understanding Scripture:
      1. The interpretation of Scripture
      2. Church history and customs
      3. The opinions and commentary of other Christian scholars
  • The grammar and syntax of the Bible should be examined with a few general rules as well
    • Scripture has only one meaning and should be taken literally
      • You must understand the Bible grammatically before you can understand it theologically
    • Interpret words with their meaning in that the author would have used at that time
      • Scripture originated in a historical context to people at a certain time, so it can only be understood in the light of biblical history
    • Interpret a word based on how it’s related to its sentence and context
    • Interpret a passage in harmony with its context
    • Interpret the words of the prophets in their usual, literal and historical sense unless the context or manner in which they are fulfilled clearly indicates they have a symbolic meaning
      • Statements can be considered figurative or symbolic if one of the following applies:
        • When an inanimate object is used to describe a living being
        • When an expression doesn’t match up with the thing described
        • Specific historical facts or events become symbols of spiritual truths only if the Scriptures actually say it is
      • Prophecies fulfilled may be in installments, each fulfillment being a promise of something else coming
    • Proverbs are made with a specific intention in mind:
      • They are often figurative and point beyond themselves
        • They’re not guarantees, but are poetic guidelines
        • They’re worded to be more memorable than precise
      • They are intensely practical and are typically for understanding how to live more than understanding God
        • They give wise advice about how to approach life, but don’t cover everything
      • They never support selfish behavior, only selfless living, but can be wrongly applied
    • The main parts and figures of a parable are symbols of certain realities, only consider the main parts and figures to make conclusions
  • There’s no “perfect way” to read the Bible, but some techniques are better than others
    1. Read a book of the Bible in one sitting at least 2-4 times with at least 2 different translations
    2.  Analyze several parts of the book by answering a few questions
      • Main personalities
        • Who was the author?
        • To whom was he writing?
        • What other major personalities are mentioned in the book?
        • How do they relate to one another?
      • Historical setting
        • When was the book written?
        • What was the historical setting in which it was written?
        • What is the historical background of the recipients?
        • What was happening in that part of the world at that time?
      • Purpose
        • Why was the book written?
        • If there was a problem to correct, what was it?
        • What was the writer trying to accomplish?
      • Themes
        • What is the major emphasis of the book?
        • What are some of the recurring ideas?
        • What subjects does the author deal with?
      • Other observations
        • Style of writing
        • Key words in the book
        • Lifestyle, culture, customs, habits of the personalities
        • The geography of the setting
    3. Research
      • Make a summary of the book as an outline, chart or diagram
        • If you need a starting point, use the outline and theme from a reference book
        • As you complete your study you will use your own theme and outline
      • Find reputable sources
        • Cross-references
        • Concordance
        • Introductions to specific Bible books
        • Bible handbook
        • Commentaries
        • Bible dictionary
        • Bible encyclopedia
        • Up-to-date Bible atlas
        • Online resources
    4. Application
      • What specific problems do I currently have, and how does this passage apply to this?
      • What should I do with this information?
      • How can I know right from wrong from these passages?
      • Who should I be, given these passages?
      • Where am I going and where should I be going with this in mind?

One of the most common Christian issues is about knowing God’s will

  • God’s will is not as complicated as we make it out to be
    • In the same way that success is less knowing and more doing, knowing God’s will isn’t as hard as doing it
      • Doing His will is simply being holy like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father
    • God’s will doesn’t usually give specific details, and is often an occasional command given while someone is traveling along the path of wisdom
      • The wisdom God gives has 3 parts
        1. The unchanging reality that He formed from before time began
        2. His desired reality, which changes based on man’s choices
        3. His directions, which are never technically “wrong” or “right” to follow
          • Usually when people talk about “God’s will”, they’re referring to His specific directions
      • God’s directions are given to us for several reasons
        • For building character and attaining holiness
        • For submitting and conforming to the kingdom of heaven and God’s glory
        • For making wise personal choices
      • There are some things that are clearly not God’s direction
        • Feelings or hunches about certain decisions
        • Randomly selected Bible verses that confirm a belief or decision
        • Anything that contradicts what the Bible has clearly stated
      • We should want wisdom more than specific guidance on a matter
        • Wisdom is understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God
        • Biblical wisdom is living a disciplined and prudent life in the fear of the Lord
        • Wisdom, for Christians, is more precious than silver or gold
        • Our attitude toward wisdom should be one of the earnest longing
        • The way of wisdom is the way of life, which gives freedom by understanding it
      • Wisdom can be improved with several disciplines
        • Praying consistently and regularly
        • Asking for good advice from other wise people in the Body of Christ
        • Reading diving deeply into the Bible consistently
        • Taking the correct amount of time to deliberate on decisions
        • Researching about the best decisions to make and learning about how much knowledge is really needed
        • Focus more on what you can change in yourself and less on what is going on around you or what you want
  • There are only a few reasons we seek out God’s will
    • The desire to please Him
      • The attitude should more be “the Lord is leading” than “God told me so”
    • A personal timidity
      • Following God sometimes has your own personal choices mixed into the decision-making process
    • The desire for perfect personal fulfillment
    • Too many choices to choose from
      • It’s not a spiritual thing to be unable to make decisions
    • Fear and cowardice about the present or the future
      • If you are following God’s will, then you will be confident that He holds the future and not care about it
      • If you’re anxious, you’re sinning, which means you’re not able to listen to His will even if He told it
  • God’s will is not as complicated as we like to think it is
    • It’s not a precise target to aim for with innumerable ways to fail
    • It’s also not like a maze with special rules and guidelines necessary to understand how to succeed
    • On the other hand, it’s not a free-reign opportunity to do whatever we want
    • We are responsible for our actions, and we should remember it when making decisions
  • The complicated part about God’s will is from our own faithlessness
    • We tend to blame others for our circumstances, though we are all responsible in some way for our sin
    • Some people make go-to excuses to not change their sin lifestyles:
      • “God is still working on me”
      • “We’re all in the same boat”
      • “It’s not that bad”
    • We will often make God’s desires complicated through negativity and faith
  • Your heart needs to be in the right state to stay in God’s will
    • Be in an eternal relationship with Christ (2 Peter 3:9)
      • Have a deep understanding with Jesus and who you are with him
      • Place “Christ above all”, where He is your pursuit and treasury instead of simply your religion or mystical experience
    • Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:17)
      • Depend on Christ and the Body of Christ for your growth
    • Be spiritually set aside for a holy purpose, or sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4)
    • Be submissive and humble to all people (1 Peter 2)
    • Have suffering that promotes your growth (1 Peter 4:19)
      • Hardship comes in a predictable pattern:
        1. God permits difficulty and hardship to happen for the purpose of educating us
        2. Those specific trials and troubles persists as long as we need to learn that lesson
          • If we refuse to learn the lesson, the situation gets more severe until we learn what God wants us to know
        3. The difficulties go away once we’ve learned what we need to know and we’re given a period of rest
        4. Repeat Step 1 with a different lesson
    • Be thankful and grateful for Him and the situation you’re in (Ephesians 5)
  • If you are inside His will, you can do anything you want
    • Literally anything that’s not sin is part of God’s will if you are abiding in Him
      • You can eat and drink what you want
      • You can go anywhere or live anywhere you want
      • You can be around anybody that you want
    • God doesn’t care as much about doctrines, churches or living situation as much as your relationship with Him
      • Career/college decisions don’t matter as much as He does
      • Relationships with others, including romantic ones, are less important than a relationship with Him
      • Even family relationships don’t matter as much as He does (Matthew 10:37)
    • Most people who keep asking for God’s will are unwilling to do the part of God’s will that has already been given in Scripture
  • There are a ton of things that are in no way guaranteed by God’s will:
    • Health, physical wellness, continued living on this earth
    • Success, in whatever form it takes
    • An easy or leisurely life
    • Financial prosperity
    • Literal messages or words from Him or from angels
    • Challenges that are reasonable and low-stress
      • God will give you more than you can handle to force you to be more reliant on Him
    • Any of the above for anyone else that you love
    • Consistent living in any particular fashion
      • Christians often go through “seasons” of hardship and testing mixed with temporary prosperity
      • Mature Christians will come to expect hardship when life seems to be going extremely well
  • Sometimes if we don’t know what God wants for us, we need to try something new:
    • Do something to increase your enjoyment of God
    • Ask God to do something humanly impossible that advances the kingdom of Heaven
    • Work to improve the quality of your family life, assuming that there’s room to improve it
    • Make new progress in a specific spiritual discipline
    • Find the single biggest time-waster in your life and remove it
    • Find a helpful new way to strengthen your church
    • Pray fervently for someone’s salvation
    • Try to make this day, month and year different from last day, month and year
    • Find one way to improve your prayer life
    • Do one thing that will still matter in ten years, and do one thing that will still matter in eternity
    • Instead of asking “why” from God about things, ask “how” things can be used
    • Pray for God to search you and use you
      • This is one of the most risky prayers to your current lifestyle, but also the most rewarding

Following God isn’t simply “you and God”

  • Since you are part of the Body of Christ, you are called to love others while being loved (John 13:34-35)
    • Loving others is a complex and challenging experience, and will be covered later (1 Corinthians)
  • Scripture implies a specific “order” of the value of relationships with others while on earth
    1. God comes first above anyone else (Luke 10:27)
    2. Spouse, even when you don’t like them (Ephesians 5:22-33)
    3. Children, with no partiality, irrespective of adopted or natural-born, at least until they attain adulthood
    4. Other Christians, also known as spiritual family (Matthew 12:46-50)
    5. All extended family (children/parents after adulthood, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, etc)
    6. Any official authority figures (Romans 13:1-7)
Next: Relationships With Others